Saturday, April 22, 2017

Beyond the Battles of Berkeley

In the midst of melee, meaning gets lost...
Brawling with the so-called "alt-right" has become fashionable in Berkeley. My city has become a magnet destination for white nationalist Trumpers itching to fight and anti-fascist demonstrators rising to the bait to take them on. We all wind up with a testosterone-infused mess that has nothing to do with actual issues. The powers that be even cancelled the Saturday farmers market to indulge this rumble. With Ann Coulter supposed to arrive for her cancelled speech this week, this pattern shows no sign of letting up any time soon.

Yes, the "alt-right," white nationalists are disgusting. As a woman, a queer and a Jew I haven't the slightest doubt as to which side I'm on. I have every intention of showing up for meaningful protest, just not a remake of the Sharks meet the Jets, (remember West Side Story?).

As a young dyke I was involved in groups such as Lesbian Schoolworkers, (who fought against the Brigg's initiative) and Lesbians Against Police Violence among others. We studied racism, sexism, homophobia and all the other isms. We also talked about socio-economic class and read Lenin and Marx, learned about dialectical materialism, which I never got quite right. Our anti-capitalist veiwpoint was based in a class analysis alongside identity discrimination. Perhaps if the leftist groups today had taken socio-economic class seriously in the first place, we wouldn't be stuck with this regime we have now.

The perspective of class has been lost completely, except perhaps in the dogmatic, highly regulated, left. In single issue groups, oppression is attributed to one factor whether it is race, gender presentation, ethnicity or immigration status. Perhaps, if we had organizations united around the genuine and multiple sins of capitalism. We could reach a place of unity.  Instead, groups focusing on separate issues are formed and led by the most bourgeois, entitled members of each identity.

The separation of urban and rural people is one of the main reasons for our situation today. Rural folks would have to accept the fact that we live in a heterogeneous, pluralistic society. The straight, white, Christian male is no longer the prototype American and hasn't been for quite a while. The nineteen fifties hold no magic for anyone outside of this limited narrative. And, as for our side, the side of history, punching a Nazi may be good for morale in the moment but it does not a movement make. Fighting is just another toxic ideology. It will take a purposeful, reasoned movement with a multi-issue program to initiate real change.

Lets create a more comprehensive analysis of what has gone wrong in our country, so we can figure out how to change it. We can start by integrating class analysis with identity politics and promote an understanding of a wide array peoples' situations in the under class that includes, but it not limited to, our understanding of all the isms that are dividing people today and placing Berkeley in the cross-hairs of civil war.